Duties Other Than Writing

My son’s teacher has a day each week reserved for DOTT – Duties Other Than Teaching. I imagine she gets busy with the laminator, sharpens pencils, fills up the glue pots and perhaps some more rigorous teacherly activities such as lesson planning.

Writers need those days too. Most Duties Other Than Writing revolve around:  a) trying to do what you love without starving to death in the process and/or  b) trying to get your work (and sometimes yourself) ‘out there’ in the big bad world so that more people will read what you write.

As a fledgeling writer, my DOTW have so far mostly included writing grant applications, submitting proposals to agents or publishers, submitting short stories to journals and entering competitions. These activities are generally incredibly time-consuming. Whilst engaged in them I tend to veer wildly between delusions of grandeur – I’m going to win this! This is going to be my big break! – and disheartenment – I don’t even know why I’m still sending this out, clearly no one’s going to read it, what a waste of paper.

When my first book, A New Map of the Universe, was published, my DOTW expanded to include giving interviews, speaking at writers’ festivals, and hobknobbing at literary functions. These DOTW were pretty good fun. But they still pulled me away from the ‘real ’ work.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the balance right. Sometimes I manage to spend several weeks without writing a word, absorbed in a frenzy of DOTW. Then I remember that without the actual WRITING, all the ‘duties other than’ are meaningless. And I bring myself back to what matters: putting words on paper.

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